No C-E change as CFP Board scraps controversial plan

Proposal would have hiked continuing-education requirements for registrants

Dec 5, 2012 @ 4:09 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

On the same day that it took a dramatic step toward trying to make its credential the coin of the realm in the investment advice sector, the CFP Board announced that it was scrapping a plan to strengthen its education component.

Yesterday, the board withdrew a proposal that would have increased continuing-education requirements to 40 hours, from 30, every two years, while bumping up ethics requirements to four hours, from two. In addition, the proposal would allow continuing education credit for some pro-bono work and professional activities.

The CFP Board decided to scrap the proposal after receiving overwhelming negative reaction to increasing the continuing-education standard. About 85% of those commenting opposed it. The CFP Board said that it received a record 1,100 comments.

Halting the C-E changes occurred just hours after the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors announced that it would require new members to hold a CFP designation to join the organization. The new rule goes into effect Jan. 1. The step is part of a joint NAPFA-CFP Board effort to make the mark the pre-eminent investment advice credential.

Kevin Keller, chief executive of the CFP Board, said he is not concerned about the organization's pulling back from the initiative to bolster its education program at the same time that it is portraying itself as the paragon of adviser standards.

He noted that the CFP Board found that CFP holders are overwhelmed with training and education requirements already mandated by their firms, broker-dealers or insurance companies. “They were thoughtful letters,” Mr. Keller said. “These weren't people saying, 'We don't want to do more CE.'”

He asserted that CFPs already have to meet a more rigorous education standard than other credentials'.

“I would characterize it as CFP Board listening to its stakeholders and balancing the interest of the public at large with the economic and time requirements that a new standard would put on certificants,' Mr. Keller said.

While the proposal revision puts off indefinitely the continuing-education change, the organization also is wrestling with a high-profile ethics case.

Last month, Alan Goldfarb, director of wealth management at Weaver Wealth Management and chairman of the CFP Board, resigned over alleged violations of CFP ethical standards. Two members of the CFP's Disciplinary and Ethics Commission also resigned.

The matter will not be resolved anytime soon. A hearing will take place sometime in March. After that session, the CFP Board has 30 days to make a decision. Mr. Goldfarb would then have 30 days to appeal and the CFP Board would have another 20 days to respond.

As spelled out in the organization's disciplinary rules, the CFP Board will not release any details of the case. The spring hearing is also private.

The CFP Board opens more than 1,000 cases and holds 100 to 150 hearings annually, according to Mr. Keller. The fact that it is treating its former chairman as it would any of the other 67,300 advisers who hold the CFP mark speaks well of the organization, he argued.

“This is a sign of the strength of the certificate,” Mr. Keller said. “It doesn't matter against whom allegations are made. We follow the process.”

Last week in a webinar, he used the situation to set the CFP apart as a credential.

“Try to find an example of [other groups'] enforcement process in the public domain,” Mr. Keller said. “This is why the public can have trust and confidence in the CFP certificate.”

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